‘White Girl’s Perspective’ on ‘Trophy Scarves’: It’s Important

What kind of person poses naked as a human accessory? One who wants to send a message to women like herself.

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TrophyScarves

Nate Hill and Janet Mercel

Nate Hill

Photographer Nate Hill says his new "Trophy Scarves" exhibit, featuring images of himself in a tuxedo with near-naked white women draped lifelessly around his shoulders like human accessories, is meant to make a statement.

"Well, there are people who see certain races as status symbols, and someone had to comment on that," Hill, who conveyed a similar message in his "White Power Milk," told Vice magazine.

There's no mystery about the artist's perspective. But, we wondered, what kind of person is comfortable posing as a living symbol of  "status and power" in a project satirizing her own objectification and privilege? In this case, a person who's fully on board with the message and says it's women like her, as much as black men like Hill, who need to hear it.

We caught up with one such person, 31-year-old Janet Mercel of Brooklyn, N.Y. The part-time model and aspiring writer gave us her take on the project's message (and, yes, she actually had one).

The Root: Are you a professional model?

Janet Mercel: I modeled professionally for a long time 10 years ago. I left my full-time job six months ago, and I've been modeling part-time while I finish writing. I'm trying to finish a book, and I just found a publisher.

TR: How did you get this job?

JM: I found an ad on Craigslist.

TR: Do you remember what the ad said?

JM: I think it specified petite white girl, not verbatim but it certainly was something that you had to be somewhat small, and it did specify "white." But that doesn't necessarily mean anything [about a project having a racial message]. Then Nate and I started talking via email a little and then when I saw his name I recognized his work. He was totally forthcoming about his goal with the project. I'd heard of some of his previous projects so I thought it would be something wildly controversial.